India’s economy grows at its fastest pace in six quarters in election boost for Modi

India’s economy grows at its fastest pace in six quarters in election boost for Modi
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves as he visits International Media Center, on the second day of the G20 summit in New Delhi, India, September 10, 2023. (REUTERS)
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Updated 29 February 2024
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India’s economy grows at its fastest pace in six quarters in election boost for Modi

India’s economy grows at its fastest pace in six quarters in election boost for Modi
  • India’s economy grew 8.4% in the October-December quarter, much faster than 6.6% estimate
  • India has beaten market expectations, is ranked as one of fastest-growing economies in the world

NEW DELHI: India’s economy grew at its fastest pace in one-and-half years in the final three months of 2023, led by strong manufacturing and construction activity and bolstering Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s economic record just months before a national election.
Asia’s third largest economy grew 8.4 percent in the October-December quarter, much faster than the 6.6 percent estimated by economists polled by Reuters and higher than the 7.6 percent recorded in the previous three months.
“The ongoing growth momentum is indicative of the Indian economy’s resilience, notwithstanding global headwinds,” said Sunil Kumar Sinha, economist at India Ratings, noting that industrial growth continued its good run in the quarter.
India has consistently beat market expectations and is ranked as one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, with China struggling to recover after the pandemic and the euro zone narrowly escaping a recession.
India revised its growth estimate for the current fiscal year to March 31 to 7.6 percent from 7.3 percent.
Such a strong showing in the last major economic data release before elections due by May could bolster Modi’s chances after he made high economic growth one of his main platforms at rallies across the country.
The December growth “shows the strength of Indian economy and its potential,” Modi said in a social media post.
Modi has sharply raised government spending on infrastructure and offered incentives to boost manufacturing of phones, electronics, drones and semiconductors to help India compete with likes of Vietnam and Thailand.
The manufacturing sector, which for the past decade has accounted for 17 percent of Asia’s third-largest economy, expanded 11.6 percent year-on-year in the December quarter, while investment growth was above 10 percent for the second consecutive quarter, and the construction sector grew by more than 9 percent.
“Manufacturing sector growth was supported by lower input costs,” said Rajani Sinha, Economist at CareEdge
Private consumption, accounting for 60 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), recovered slightly in the quarter, with a 3.5 percent year-on-year rise, compared with 2.4 percent in the previous three months.
Government spending contracted 3.2 percent year-on-year, compared with 1.4 percent growth in the previous quarter.
RURAL WEAKNESS
The farm sector, which accounts for about 15 percent of the $3.7 trillion economy, continued to struggle due to unfavorable monsoon rains. It contracted 0.8 percent in the December quarter, compared with 1.6 percent growth in the September quarter.
Slowing rural growth dragged down farm incomes and some farmers have hit the streets
demanding higher procurement prices.
Rural weakness has led to slower growth for major retail companies like Hindustan Unilever and Britannia Industries.
The pace of growth in real rural wages was around 1 percent in 2023 after contracting nearly 3 percent in the previous two years, according to ICRA, while average salaries in urban areas have been going up by nearly 10 percent a year.
However, policymakers remain optimistic about rural recovery.
“With the anticipated better value addition in the farm sector next financial year, rural demand growth and rural income growth will be even better and more evident in FY25,” country’s Chief Economic Adviser V Anantha Nageswaran said.


UK defense minister says China sending ‘lethal aid’ to Russia for Ukraine war

UK defense minister says China sending ‘lethal aid’ to Russia for Ukraine war
Updated 23 May 2024
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UK defense minister says China sending ‘lethal aid’ to Russia for Ukraine war

UK defense minister says China sending ‘lethal aid’ to Russia for Ukraine war

LONDON: China is sending “lethal aid” to Russia for use in its war against Ukraine, Britain’s defense minister Grant Shapps said on Wednesday.
“Today I can reveal that we have evidence that Russia and China are collaborating on combat equipment for use in Ukraine,” he said in a speech at a London conference.
Shapps warned that NATO needed to “wake up” and bolster defense spending across the alliance.
“US and British defense intelligence can reveal that lethal aid is now flowing from China to Russia and into Ukraine.”
He argued that democratic states should make a “full-throated case” for freedoms that are dependent on the international order, meaning “we need more allies and partners” worldwide.
“It’s time for the world to wake up. And that means translating this moment to concrete plans and capabilities. And that starts with laying the foundations for an alliance-wide increase in spending on our collective deterrent,” he said.
China and Russia’s strategic partnership has only grown closer since the invasion of Ukraine, but Beijing has rebuffed Western claims that it is aiding Moscow’s war effort.
China has also offered a critical lifeline to Russia’s isolated economy, with trade booming since the invasion and hitting $240 billion in 2023, according to Chinese customs figures.
US President Joe Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan, however, appeared to take issue with some of Shapps’s comments.
He said the possibility that China might “provide weapons directly — lethal assistance — to Russia” had been a concern earlier, but that “we have not seen that to date.”
The United States did though have a “concern about what China’s doing to fuel Russia’s war machine, not giving weapons directly, but providing inputs to Russia’s defense industrial base,” he added.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin put on a strong show of unity during a meeting in Beijing earlier this month.
Xi said in a statement following talks with Putin during his visit that the two sides agreed on the need for a “political solution” to resolve the war.


Colombia to open embassy in Ramallah

Colombia to open embassy in Ramallah
Updated 23 May 2024
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Colombia to open embassy in Ramallah

Colombia to open embassy in Ramallah

BOGOTA: Colombia, whose president has described Israel’s campaign in Gaza as “genocidal,” said Wednesday it will open an embassy in Ramallah in the Palestinian territories.

Foreign Minister Luis Murillo told reporters that President Gustavo Petro — an ardent critic of Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu — had given instructions “that we install the embassy of Colombia in Ramallah” in the West Bank.

The announcement came on the same day Ireland, Norway and Spain announced they would recognize a Palestinian state, more than seven months into the devastating Gaza war.

An unprecedented attack by Hamas on Israel on October 7 resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

The militants also took 252 hostages, 124 of whom remain in Gaza, including 37 the army says are dead.

Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 35,709 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.

Colombia severed ties with Israel as Petro called Netanyahu “genocidal.”

Earlier this month, he called for the International Criminal Court to issue an arrest warrant for the Israeli leader.

On Monday, the prosecutor of that court said he has requested arrest warrants for Netanyahu, his defense minister and top Hamas leaders.


UCLA police chief reassigned following criticism over handling of campus demonstrations

UCLA police chief reassigned following criticism over handling of campus demonstrations
Updated 23 May 2024
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UCLA police chief reassigned following criticism over handling of campus demonstrations

UCLA police chief reassigned following criticism over handling of campus demonstrations
  • The reassignment of Thomas follows UCLA’s May 5 announcement of the creation of a new chief safety officer position

LOS ANGELES: The police chief at the University of California, Los Angeles, has been reassigned following criticism over his handling of recent campus demonstrations that included a mob attacking a pro-Palestinian encampment.
Chief John Thomas was temporarily reassigned Tuesday “pending an examination of our security processes,” said Mary Osako, UCLA vice chancellor for strategic communications, in a statement released Wednesday.
The Daily Bruin reported late Tuesday that Thomas said in a text to the campus newspaper, “There’s been a lot going on and, I learned late yesterday that I’m temporarily reassigned from my duties as chief.”
Neither Osako nor Thomas identified his reassigned role.
The reassignment of Thomas follows UCLA’s May 5 announcement of the creation of a new chief safety officer position to oversee campus security operations.
On April 30, counterdemonstrators attacked a pro-Palestinian encampment, throwing traffic cones, releasing pepper spray and tearing down barriers. Fighting continued for several hours before police stepped in, and no one was arrested. At least 15 protesters suffered injuries.
Thomas told the Los Angeles Times in early May that he did “everything I could” to provide security and keep students safe during days of strife that left UCLA shaken.
But his response was roundly criticized and prompted Chancellor Gene Block to order a review of campus security procedures. Block then announced that Rick Braziel, a former Sacramento police chief, would lead a new Office of Campus Safety that will oversee the UCLA Police Department.
“To best protect our community moving forward, urgent changes are needed in how we administer safety operations,” Block said in the May 5 statement.
Sporadic disruptions continued following the dismantling of a pro-Palestinian encampment and some 200 arrests on April 30.
Block has been summoned to Washington by a Republican-led House committee to testify Thursday about the protests on the Los Angeles campus.
The union that represents more than 250 officers who police the 10 UC campuses criticized Thomas’ reassignment.
“The UCLA administration owns the failure of any protest response, and the public should reject their attempts to shift blame to law enforcement,” Wade Stern, president of the Federated University Peace Officers’ Association, said in a statement Wednesday. “The response to protests appears ad hoc and devoid of the structured planning mandated by the UC system.”


Pentagon chief tells Israel of need to coordinate humanitarian, military Gaza operations

Pentagon chief tells Israel of need to coordinate humanitarian, military Gaza operations
Updated 23 May 2024
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Pentagon chief tells Israel of need to coordinate humanitarian, military Gaza operations

Pentagon chief tells Israel of need to coordinate humanitarian, military Gaza operations

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told his Israeli counterpart Yoav Gallant in a call on Wednesday of the need for an effective mechanism to coordinate humanitarian and military operations in Gaza, the Pentagon said.


Trump claims standard FBI warrant shows Biden wanted him dead

Trump claims standard FBI warrant shows Biden wanted him dead
Updated 23 May 2024
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Trump claims standard FBI warrant shows Biden wanted him dead

Trump claims standard FBI warrant shows Biden wanted him dead

WASHINGTON: Donald Trump drew disbelief — and some support — Wednesday after suggesting that standard language from an FBI search warrant executed in 2022 on his Florida mansion showed that President Joe Biden wanted armed agents to shoot him.

Trump’s latest incendiary claim was in response to a court filing outlining plans for the FBI search at the Mar-a-Lago club, where he kept classified national security documents after leaving the White House.

The filing included standard FBI wording stating that agents are allowed to use deadly force if someone is in imminent danger.

But Trump, who is running to unseat Biden in November’s election, distorted the statement to say that it showed the Justice Department was ready to shoot him and harm his family.

“It’s just been revealed that Biden’s DOJ was authorized to use DEADLY FORCE for their DESPICABLE raid in Mar-a-Lago. You know they’re just itching to do the unthinkable,” Trump said Tuesday in a fundraising email shared by US media.

“Joe Biden was locked & loaded ready to take me out & put my family in danger. He thinks he can frighten me, intimidate me, and KNOCK ME DOWN!“

The wild remarks add to the pile of false claims made by Trump against Biden, whom he has repeatedly accused without evidence of weaponizing the justice system to target him.

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called for all lawmakers to condemn Trump’s “outlandish and dangerous” remarks in a speech in the upper chamber of Congress.

“We cannot let this man, Donald Trump, or anybody else, throw these kinds of matches to light flames that could burn our democracy,” he said.

David Axelrod, a White House aide under Barack Obama, called Trump’s comments “patently nuts...and dangerously provocative” in a post on X.

But several of Trump’s staunchest allies joined Trump in misrepresenting the court filing.

Georgia congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene posted on X that the Justice Department and the FBI “gave the green light” to assassinate Trump.

On the day of the raid, Trump was not on Florida but at his Bedminster golf club in New Jersey.

The FBI issued a rare statement, saying “there was no departure from the norm in this matter.”

The bureau — which recovered more than 100 classified documents, including some marked top secret — got the go-ahead for the raid from a federal judge after the government tried for months to get the records back.

The billionaire is accused of willfully retaining national defense information and obstructing government efforts to recover it.

He denies 40 felony charges, but the trial has been indefinitely postponed.

In a statement to AFP, the Trump campaign said reporting of the fundraising email was “a sickening attempt to run cover for Joe Biden who is the most corrupt president in history and a threat to our democracy.”